Starting from Scratch

by Laura Pilati

You guys probably know as well as the next pinterest-er that I love to read and learn about DIY cosmetics and cleaners. So I feel rather ashamed to admit that, until recently, the only DIY “ingredient” I had to my name was a 4 oz. bottle of jojoba oil.

Now, if I had to pick one item out of the thousands of potential stock from Ellwood Thompson’s to include in my cabinet, jojoba oil certainly wouldn’t be a bad choice. It’s a good dandruff treatment, dry hair moisturizer, and a very versatile carrier oil. But if I wanted to do anything other than twiddle my thumbs in jojoba oil…well, I realized that I needed to build up the arsenal, so to speak. Knowing where to start felt more than a little daunting, however. So many possibilities, so little time… And if you follow blogs like Crunchy Betty or read through any herbal guide, it can seem like you need to drop about $43289473289 before you can even make a solid perfume. Well, in solidarity with my checkbook, I decided to consult some veteran DIY-ers for tips on starting my own “DIY cabinet”.

Crunchy Betty hosts a great little forum that I enjoy perusing. It’s full of “no poo” experts, girls looking for cheap alternatives to highlights, total converts to natural products, and everything in between–so you get a pretty wide variety of perspectives on any given post! Here was where I decided to make a plea for suggestions of staple DIY ingredients:

It took a couple of weeks, but I eventually got five great responses from fellow “crunchy betties”. When I compiled a list of every suggestion that they gave, here was what I ended up with (tally marks indicate that an additional person[s] suggested this after the original):

  • jojoba oil – II (check!)
  • castor oil
  • olive oil – I
  • grapeseed oil – II
  • apple cider vinegar – III
  • white vinegar
  • raw honey – III
  • coconut oil (extra virgin) – II
  • essential oils of your choice – I (there were also three people who specifically suggested tea tree oil, two people who suggested lavender e.o., and one who suggested peppermint e.o., but these are all under this category)
  • shea/cocoa butter – I
  • clay
  • arrowroot powder
  • beeswax

Lots to work with! Based on these recommendations, the recipes I’ve read over time, and personal preference, I finalized it all into one list that I intend to keep consistently as staple ingredients–same as you might always keep baking powder, sugar, and flour in your baking pantry:

  1. jojoba oil
  2. apple cider vinegar (I also intend to keep white vinegar in the house, but consider that more of a cooking item than a DIY item)
  3. raw honey
  4. coconut oil
  5. tea tree oil
  6. clay
  7. arrowroot powder
  8. beeswax
  9. witch hazel

There are a few things that helped me narrow it down to this list. First, I chose jojoba oil out of all of the potential carrier oils because I already have it on hand and I like its “light” quality. As Olivia mentioned before, it’s very similar to natural human sebum, but has no scent and is cheaply and widely available. Out of all of the essential oils, I decided to stick with tea tree oil for its versatility (it’s commonly recommended for everything from acne treatment to antiseptic), but wanted to leave other essential oils up to my varying personal preference–though I do currently have the intention to purchase a few specific ones, like lavender and peppermint.

The others were ingredients that I come across frequently in recipes or that I’ve needed for recipes I want to make. For example, apple cider vinegar is a hair rinse that many folks doing the “no poo” method use, and beeswax and coconut oil are two common solid “carriers” for things like balms and solid perfumes. On the other hand, I ruled out cocoa/shea butter because they are common in lotions and “liquid” moisturizers, two things I don’t currently have the need or desire to produce for myself (I prefer balms to lotions).

The next step was pricing everything because it was really important to me to know how much it was going to cost me to make a personal stock of these items (and decide if my choices were actually affordable). I decided to take my list to my two favorite sources–my local health food supplier, Ellwood Thompson’s, and the well-known online herbal supplier, Mountain Rose Herbs, which made for a nice in-store vs. online comparison.

Organic Jojoba oil, 8 oz.: $42 at Mountain Rose Herbs, $21 at Ellwood Thompson’s.

Apple cider vinegar, 32 oz.: $6 at Ellwood Thompson’s. ACV wasn’t available on Mountain Rose Herbs, probably because it’s so common in grocery stores.

Though MRH doesn’t sell raw honey, either, there were lots of options at Ellwood’s–all usually about $11/pound.

Ellwood’s also had a couple of options for beeswax. A three ounce “cake” ran about $3.50, but they also sold “beads” (small pieces of beeswax) for $21/pound. Mountain Rose Herbs sells beeswax “pastilles” for just $11/pound.

Coconut oil: $59 for a gallon of the unrefined version at MRH (compare to $32/gallon for refined), $10 for 14 fluid oz. at Ellwood Thompson’s (p.s.-did you know Dr. Bronner’s sells their own brand of coconut oil??)

Tea tree oil, 1/2 oz.: $6 at MRH (also $29 for 4 ounces), $8 at Ellwood’s.

Since there are lots of different types of clay, the price will vary based on what you want, but hovers around $5-10 per pound at MRH and $15-20 at Ellwood Thompson’s.

Arrowroot powder is similar, at $5.50/pound at MRH and $6.50/1.25 lbs. at Ellwood Thompson’s.

Finally, witch hazel, a common under-the-sink item, isn’t available at Ellwood’s or MRH, but can be found at just about any drug store for a couple of bucks.

Taking all this into consideration, I should probably expect to spend about $85-100 on building up my DIY staple ingredients. Most of the items that I’d purchase here would last me a pretty long time, so the cost would be high up front, but even out over time as I eventually run out of certain things and need to replace them or find non-essential items (like essential oils) that I want to add to my collection.

Did any of the item costs surprise you? I was shocked at how much more expensive some of the items were at one place versus another… Do you have any of these items in your cabinet? Tell me what you think is essential!

2 responses to “Starting from Scratch

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